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ANGLICAN-LANG Jul-12-2005 (820 words) xxxi

Bishop says fleeing Anglicans must join church for positive reasons

By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- A Catholic bishop said Anglican clerics opposed to the ordination of women bishops should not be received into the Catholic Church for "negative reasons."

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, one of England's leading Catholic ecumenists, spoke amid rising speculation that the vote taken by the Church of England July 11 to remove legal obstacles to the episcopal ordination of women would lead to mass defections of traditionalist clergy.

Bishop Lang, co-chairman of the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee, a group that meets twice a year to promote ecumenical projects and the joint study of theology, said mechanisms existed within the English Catholic Church to receive married Anglican ministers and even to ordain them as Catholic priests.

"When there was the ordination of women in the first place there were some Anglicans who applied to be received into the Catholic Church, and the same provision is there at the moment," he told Catholic News Service July 12. "But there is an understanding that you don't come into the Catholic Church for a negative reason.

"Those Anglican priests who were received into the church were received for positive reasons -- for example, that they accepted the teaching authority of the church," he said.

About 400 English Anglican clerics converted to Catholicism after the General Synod of the Church of England voted to ordain women in 1992, and a number of them -- married and single -- became Catholic priests.

The vote for women bishops has led to predictions of more defections, with Anglican Bishop Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet telling The Sunday Times newspaper July 10 that he would join the Catholic Church along with about 800 Anglican ministers if the Church of England failed to provide a "third province" with an all-male clergy.

The two provinces in the Church of England are Canterbury and York, established during the Anglo-Saxon period by St. Augustine and St. Paulinus. A third province would require an archbishop and would be totally autonomous from, but in communion with, other Anglican churches throughout the world.

Bishop Lang said he did not think the decisive vote by all three houses of the General Synod of the Church of England, meeting at York University, would harm relations between the Catholic and Anglican churches.

"Our conversations will continue," he said.

Anglican Bishop Tom Butler of Southwark said during the debate that the Church of England should not be deterred by its relations with Catholics.

"The Church of England, catholic and reformed, has before acted prophetically for the wider church: The vernacular liturgy, married clergy, have all been pioneered by our church and have proved to be a blessing to other communions also," Bishop Butler said. "The same I believe will be true of women's orders, which we are pioneering."

The vote means that women could be ordained bishops in England within seven years.

Fourteen of the world's 38 Anglican churches already have decided to allow women bishops.

The Rev. David Houlding, leader of the Anglo-Catholic group of the General Synod, told the British Broadcasting Corp. radio July 12 that he feared the unity of the Anglican Communion would be damaged as a result of the vote.

"We need proper provision for people who do not agree with that decision to stay within the Church of England," he said.

But Christina Reese of the campaign group Women and the Church told the same program that such a move would result only in an "ecclesiastical ghetto."

"We have had women priests for over 11 years, and it's normal now for people to see women as part of the clergy," she said.

William Oddie, author of "The Roman Option," a 1997 book about the defections from the Church of England after women began to be ordained in 1994, told CNS July 11 that it was "ludicrous to say you can't have women bishops" if it was accepted that women could be ordained as priests.

Oddie, a former Anglican minister who converted to Catholicism in the 1980s, said that in the 1990s some disaffected Anglicans made contact with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, about a possible "parallel jurisdiction," and the future Pope Benedict XVI was said to have been sympathetic.

Such a parallel jurisdiction, Oddie said, would mean that the former Anglicans would be in communion with the Catholic Church but would be under the authority of their own bishop.

"This pope might accept a separate body which is outside the jurisdiction of the English Catholic bishops," Oddie said, adding that he thought the vote would mean many Anglican ministers would be "coming to Rome one way or another."

"They have been asking for a third province, and it is possible that they could be offered that rather than go to Rome," said Oddie. "Personally, I think Rome ought to outbid them (the Anglican bishops) and say 'Come to us, we are here for you.'"


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